Michael Balter (ScienceNow.com)
Although largely supplanted by organized religion, shamanism is still widespread in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. For example, many Eskimo groups around the Arctic Circle practice shamanism. The roots of shamanism reach back at least to the ancient Greeks and possibly even to prehistoric times. Many archaeologists assume that shamanism preceded organized religion, and some see depictions of shamans in cave art from 15,000 years ago or earlier--although that interpretation is controversial.
But recent excavations at Hilazon Tachtit, a cave west of the Sea of Galilee in Israel, may provide new support for prehistoric shamanism. Hilazon Tachtit was occupied by the Natufians, a people who inhabited the Near East between about 15,000 and 11,500 years ago. Most archaeologists see Natufian culture as a transition between hunting and gathering and the sedentary lifestyles of early farmers. More>>